Carla Acheson

Author

Category: Resources for Writers (Page 1 of 7)

Bring Your Character To Life In Fiction Writing

When you think about a person in your mind you are normally able to visualise the way they look, and most importantly, the subtle traits in their character which make up the whole sum of a person.

In fiction we are told to do away with describing a person’s hair, eye colour, etc, simply because it’s no longer fashionable to go into such bland details. Fiction has over the years transformed reader’s tastes and we have learned that we don’t actually need to know the smaller descriptive details in order to engage and get to really know a character.  This however, does not mean that you cannot use these details of description, but the more vivid and interesting it is, the more chance your character will be memorable in the reader’s mind.

Some of the simple ways you can make your characters more life-like and interesting is to find unusual ways in which to describe them. For instance; a person is not just made up of a torso, four limbs and a head. There are thousands of different physical visual differences to each individual.

If you are writing about an old man think about his features in closer depth. Pock marks, sagging jaw, heavily lidded eyes. Is there a way you can describe these with interest? Perhaps you can paint the character of an old man by showing how he… stoops over his cane allowing his back to form a smooth hill. Isn’t that more interesting to read than simply saying the old man had an arched back?

Showing a character to your reader by dropping in actions they perform is a trick most good writer’s use in their story-telling. Here is another example of this:

The waiter appeared tall and broad as he carried the tray to the table.

Swap the above sentence for..

A young girl at the table giggled as the waiter ducked beneath the lampshade, approaching the table with a carefully balanced tray on his muscular arm. 

In the second example you are showing the reader how tall the waiter is through the eyes of a background character without actually saying it outright.

A well pictured character drawn on good description will stick in the reader’s mind long after she/he has finished your book.

More helpful tips on the subject of characterisation can be found in this downloadable booklet. There are many more examples, as in the one given above.

Creating vivid and dynamic characters is one of the most exciting, yet daunting tasks for many writers.

In this booklet, you will discover how to create exciting and memorable fictional characters by working through each important element that makes up an interesting individual.

The “do’s and don’ts” of beginner writers, how to avoid stereotyping, as well as learn the many tricks and tips used by best-selling authors.   This booklet also provides ‘copyright free’ story prompts and writing exercises to develop your skills.

5 Tips on Planning Your Novel

There are many ways you can think about structuring your novel, the least of all your worries are how many actual words you should or should not be typing – until you have actually typed every single one of them. Do not worry about your novel being too short or too long when you are completing a first draft, the biggest worry in your mind should be…. will I get the whole thing down? And the answer to that is yes. You can and you will.

Once you have committed to writing a story from beginning to end, remember that there are no hard and fast rules as to how you should or should not plan your journey. To give you an idea of the options available, here are five ways you can go about it, or you can choose a sixth way which is just to make up your own novel-writing plan!

1.Write a Synopsis – If you havent heard of this, it’s a written assessment of your story detailing the plot from beginning to end. It can be as lengthy as you wish, though best to focus on the points of the story and not get bogged down with the fleshy details. One problem with this.. I find.. is that you can get so busy writing the perfect synopsis, you avoid writing the actual book because, yes, we all know a book is going to take a hell of a lot longer to complete. (If you are still pruning and editing a synopsis a month after writing it, you have actually kind of lost the plot!)

Alternatively if writing a synopsis for an agent you might want to produce a 2-3 page synopsis (maximum) and dont forget to use an ‘active’ voice.

2. Notebook style – This is my way of planning a story which kind of reflects my upside down life. I gather information, ideas, scattered words, and just fill a notepad with it all. Possible plots, intriguing characters, enticing beginnings and thrilling endings. The whole ‘notebook’ style of planning your novel might well look like Marilyn Manson’s school book, but trust me, when you need to incorporate those ideas, you will be able to make sense of it and pull out just the bits that you really want in your story.

3. Chapter by Chapter – There are many writers who simply prefer to ‘wing it.’ They pick up on an idea, figure out a tentative plot in their heads, engage in some vague sense of direction, and boom – off they go! This is not an advisable way to write a novel in reality, because at some point you are going to burn out or meet the murky middle or GSM (great swampy middle) as described by one intrepid author. Once there you will find that there is not a hope in hell of coming out alive, or be able to continue your story in any sensible direction. The murky middle of your book will kill your brain and quite possibly murder your story. Having said that, some brave writers attempt this approach and have completely blown this advice out of the water, going on to produce fantastic books on a whim. (We hate those writers!)

4. Back to Front – I love this idea though I could never plan or start my novel in this way. Some people dramatically write a last chapter complete with a shock effect ending. They then work backwards, creating the entire reason and plot arc as to how that particular ending came into fruition. If it works for you, by all means try it. Just remember that working backwards might be more complicated than it seems. If your character is murdered on the last page, at what point in your story does your reader get to find out who killed him/her and why? If anything, choosing an ending first might well give you a few good ideas on possible plot ideas.

5. Story Beats – This is a method I have used myself. Simply write down 25 chapter headings. Within each chapter you will add the main beats of the story. Here is an example:

Chapter 1
Sally is sitting alone in cafe.
Hospital calls her to tell her that her husband suffered a grave accident.
Sally leaves the cafe and heads straight to the hospital.
Traffic holds her up and she is too late to reach him.
Once there he is already pronounced dead.

Using the above method you are only outlining the very basic beats of the story and not bogging down your mind with all the description and extra curricular details. This method can also be incorporated using Index Cards, but I find throwing the ‘beats’ into chapters allows you to re-arrange/adjust your story using the minimal (and most important) information which your story contains.

Here are further links to useful novel planning articles.

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2011/09/14/25-ways-to-plot-plan-and-prep-your-story/

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/your-novel-blueprint

http://www.novel-writing-help.com/how-to-write-a-novel.html

http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/novelplot.shtml

 

Book Reviews, love ’em or hate ’em?

Book reviews are one of the most important things in the publishing world. Without them, no-one gets to find out how good, or bad, a book is. I’ve compiled a few facts about the subject of reviews, which I think authors and readers could learn from.

A ‘single’ reader review reflects ‘only’ what one particular reader thinks of an author’s book. If twenty readers thought that a book was great, but one person reviewed it badly, does that mean that the book is badHardly! 

Bear in mind that reviews are are very subjective to an individual’s tastes. To get the best estimation of your book, (aside from paying for a critical and reliable review from someone in the industry,) the author should watch for any repeating points that are made by readers. A large number of these will indicate a possible true problem with a book. In many of the reviews of my novel, ‘The Last Gift’, many readers mentioned a similar phrase in one form or another ‘Cannot put it down… was unable to put it down… had to get to the end…

Because of these recurring comments, I can assume the book was gripping, and the reader was able to immerse well into the story. A great thing to know!

It is also important to realise that ‘reviews’ given by average readers will be very different to those given by ‘literary experts.’ Expect the latter to be detailed and often abrupt, as well as straight-to-the-point. Fine-tooth combing, if you will, on various elements of the story bypasses a reader’s head.

When a reader reads, he/she looks for entertainment. They want to go on a journey and be transported into that author’s make-believe world. They won’t be looking for fictional writing errors, and they might not even be able to express what is ‘wrong’ with a story. Sometimes we often read a review saying ‘I don’t know why, but this book did not do it for me.’ – Not very helpful to the author and again, could that just be the reader’s own taste or was there a problem?

When a book receives a vast number of reviews, any repetitive points made offer an insight into the book’s true value to the reader. Remember, a book is only as good as what a person thinks of it, just as a house is only worth what a person is willing to pay for it. But what one person thinks of a book is truly negligible when compared to the estimations of a much higher number of individuals. Therefore one review won’t make much of a ripple, but many will. If a vast number of reviews are ‘good’ then the book suddenly becomes more valuable in itself, and suddenly appeals to more and more readers.

So, it is important to try and get as many reviews as possible, making sure that the book in question is targeted to the right audience. Without that very important action, the chances of any authentic and positive reviews will be lessened.

So if you are an author, don’t tremble when you await that first review, it isn’t worth much, really. Wait until you get many more and then you will see the impact your book has made.

5 Top Reasons Writer’s Don’t Write

Some people tell me that they don’t know how to write, possess zero talent, and therefore trying to compete with esteemed writers is a waste of time.

Brilliant! If we all thought like that then we’d have nothing to read in the world!

Let me clarify a few of the following most common complaints why writer’s don’t actually write.

1. I need to have talent to write a great book.

No and No! Writing (like many other things) improves with practice, determination and inner faith. ‘Talent’ is not what constitutes a ‘great’ book. Talent is something pretty indefinable and soulful which truly shines ‘after’ you’ve put in all the hard work. In reality, a ‘great’ book is made up of several drafts written by a person with a large slice of courage, conviction and self belief that he or she will keep on writing and editing their manuscript, (infinitely if necessary,) until they have produced a satisfying result – Yes, it’s tough. And it’s hard. But I’ve yet to meet a writer who looks back on all that with regret.

2. My spelling and grammar is awful.

That’s why we have very inexpensive, or otherwise free, spelling and grammar-check programmes and dictionaries. It is also why there are plenty of editing services and beta-readers, (and friends!) who can spot the mistakes that even the BEST writers in the world frequently make. Whilst reading ‘Game of Thrones,’ recently (the best-selling series of fantasy books by George R R Martin) I spotted two badly constructed sentences and a typo in one chapter alone. Bloopers from a book that has been edited by a major publishing house which has poured thousands of pounds into its editing and publication. So you think you should be so hard on yourself?

And here’s the other tip – Readers can forgive the odd mistake if you have sufficiently transported them into your story world. We’ve spotted typos in many great classics, so having the odd typo in yours isn’t the end of your world or your career. So write your book, get a reliable proof-reader and be done with it.

3.  I don’t know what to write about.

Neither does anyone else until they sit butt on a chair and start to invent characters, places, scenarios, problems, funny bits, sad bits.. you can do it. Listen, you do it every day with each breath, it’s called LIFE, and you know how that one works already! So put it onto paper.

4. I can’t write anything like ‘insert name of famous author here.’

Nor should you. That’s called plagiarism. You need to write like ‘you.’ And if you think flowery words and impressive words are what readers want, you are wrong! Easy reading is all the rage today and  many Editors hate verbosity, and  more than that they hate pretentious writing that tries unsuccessfully to live up to some other kind of publication. (aka Shade of Grey spin offs!)

It is much better to be ‘you’ and produce only what YOU CAN DO to the best of your own ability, nobody else’s. Avoid the mistake of making your manuscript appear as if you consumed a tin of alphabet soup and disgorged the whole lot on one page. Put that thesaurus away for now and develop your own ‘voice and style,’ You won’t know what that is for a good while yet, but don’t worry it’ll come.

Just tell us a good ‘story.’ That’s really it!

5. Why do I dislike everything I write.

Not uncommon. We are highly critical of ourselves, terribly impatient and often lack confidence. Sometimes you need to sit back and say ‘It’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to write ‘badly, because I am learning.’

Okay, so if you really think you write badly, write badly! Just keep on doing it and it WILL improve, especially if you network with writers forums and learn from other writers, who often give invaluable free and unbiased advice on your work.

Oh and don’t forget that 90% of a good story is down to your own confidence and inner trust. Without that you’ll have reached the end before you have even attempted a beginning. The other part of the battle is consistency and discipline. We need those two virtues in BIG measures. Discipline means writing when you can’t be bothered and you’d rather watch TV. Invent small goals such as : 100 words a day and then stick to it! That is sound advice and it has stood the test of time for so many writers. Trust reliable advisers too, and research like mad. Think like your brain has a limitless portal to many  places and words and ideas, them write them all down..the silly things too!

But above all, the best you can do is trust yourself and give it a shot. You might surprise yourself and I’m pretty certain you won’t regret it.

 

 

 

Lucifer’s Blog

So you thought the Devil was always a quiet kind of guy? Well you’re wrong. He’s here! and he’s blogging just like the rest of us!

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Life ain’t been easy for me these days. How can I put it? It’s just not easy being evil anymore because nobody understands what it’s like being me.

Okay, I know what you’re gonna say. “But hey Lu, you were the good guy, you were an angel once weren’t you?”

Well, that’s true, but in my experience the good guy always finishes last. I mean c’mon how would you feel? I’m the only guy who’s ever had the job of ‘punishing’ all those damned souls, and each year they’ve been tripling in numbers. I’m overworked, underpaid. I really need a break.

Just to give you an idea how it all started, I was sitting in a tree minding my own business, having a cool conversation with some good looking broad; a naked one at that might I add. I glance around and there’s no-one bothering us and we’re gelling like craaaazy, so I offer her a bite of my apple, and then dang!! The next minute, there’s thunder and lightening and we’re being slung out into the desert like two discarded banana skins.

That’s what you get for being generous?

Well let me tell you, I’ve never been sorry because those apples tasted really good. They were the only damn good thing to eat in the whole garden. But what really made me mad were those two self-assured angels that were hiding in the same tree; laughing and pointing at me, as I slithered away.

And as for that lady? Oh boy, did she get her man in trouble! The poor guy was minding his own business and then wham, even he got into the firing line.

So turning into the bad guy was pretty easy you see, but now? I feel hellish. I need to change my image. Get together with modern times. Maybe learn computers, build a website, create a facebook page…. like satanrules.com.

Employ my top guys Marilyn Manson and Simon Cowell, they can run it with me. We’ll get mega hits!

Yeah I definitely need a break. I’ve had way too many years of soul collecting.

I pick ’em, I roast ’em. I walk the walk.

Hmm, I could do with some of this stuff called botox too.

And as for those pesky angels? Ever since I can remember they’ve been laughing and pointing at me. It used to be from the top of a tree branch, and now its from the top of a lamp-post in New York’s Times Square.

I’ll get my own back on them one day.

For now it’s time to get dirty in the 21st century! Watch this space folks!

 

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